David Tunley interview, 31 October 2012, 7 November 2012 and 13 November 2012

Dublin Core


David Tunley interview, 31 October 2012, 7 November 2012 and 13 November 2012


David Tunley interview, 31 October 2012, 7 November 2012 and 13 November 2012


Emeritus Professor David Tunley was initially trained as a pianist at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, but when coming to Perth in 1958 (having gained the degree of Bachelor of Music from the University of Durham as an external student) turned his energies more towards choral conducting, composition and research in musicology. Commencing as a lecturer in the then newly-fledged Department of Music, he was eventually appointed to a Personal Chair before moving to the Chair of Music after the retirement of Sir Frank Callaway. He is now an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Music at UWA.


Tunley, David


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Julia Wallis


David Tunley


Nedlands, W.A.


Interview 1: 54 minutes, 54 seconds
Interview 2: 46 minutes, 52 seconds
Interview 3: 1 hour, 2 minutes, 32 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 44 minutes, 18 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1: 31 October 2012

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 David Evatt Tunley. Born 3 May 1930. Grew up in Gulgong, New South Wales. Parents both doctors. Attended local primary school.
01:01 Father very musical. Aged 8 or 9 had singing lessons at local convent with Sister Veronica.
01:48 Had piano lessons about 10 years old – late in life. Attended secondary school as a boarder at Scot’s College.
02:50 During WW2. Father was fighting. Mother left running practice. Felt he had already left home.
03:30 Scot’s College was not very musical then. Continued learning piano at the Sydney Conservatorium as a weekly student. Realised music was where his interest lay. Suggested he learn under Alexander Sverjesky at the Sydney Conservatorium. Wanted to make music his career.
04:59 In the 1940s you learned the piano and took it as far as you could. Got a diploma from the Conservatorium. Attended teachers’ college at Sydney University, did graduate year and regarded as a trained music master.
06:17 Had a gift for teaching. Gained employment at Fort Street High School, Petersham. Famous old boys included Cabinet Ministers and Justice Michael Kirby who was one of David’s students. There for 5 years as bonded to Education Department.
07:31 Wanted to get a university degree in order to learn more about music. Had to attend morning classes at Sydney University. London University required a year’s attendance as part of their external degree. University of Durham had a highly respected Bachelor of Music degree. Peter Platt a senior lecturer in music at Sydney University helped him prepare for examinations. Only 25% pass rate. Exams purely historical and theory – no performance. Had a bent for the academic side of music.
11:19 His mother saw a position advertised in Sydney Morning Herald for a lecturer in music education at UWA. At that time, music was under the wing of the Faculty of Education. Universities now to be run by Federal and not State government. Money poured in for research. Explanation of how the Music Department under up under the wing of the Education Faculty.
15:33 Frank Callaway was the head of department. Golden boy of music education in NZ and had travelled in America and England. Frank was attracted to his application as he was a practically trained musician with an English degree and 5 years teaching experience.
17:15 Had to develop research skills. Wrote about the composer Edgar Bainton. Got in touch with his daughter (also a musician).
18:08 Later on his first study leave he got French government scholarship to study composition. He was away for a year and studied in Paris under Nadia Boulanger who was then in her 70s.
20:08 Australian painter friend, Moya Dyring introduced him to the husband of Louise Hanson-Dyer. A great Melbourne hostess of 20s and 30s who moved to Paris to pursue her interest in music. Set up Lyrebird publishing house. Published the entire works of Francois Couperin. Louise died in 1962, the year before David arrived in Paris. Her second husband was considerably younger than her. He recommended David contact the head of the music section at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Francois Lesure, in order to get into musicological research.
23:51 David did this and was encouraged to study the 18th French Cantata. This was new ground. All too soon it was time to come home.

Track 3
00:00 David wrote to Frank Callaway who got in touch with Leonard Jolley who organised for all the works to be put on microfilm. Eventually Perth the largest collection of French cantatas outside of France. Wrote two articles on the boat coming home that were accepted by leading museological journals.
01:35 A cantata is a dramatic musical work like a mini opera but not staged and without costume. Immensely popular in Paris in 18th century. Also included poetry.
03:13 Study in Tuart House read music off microfiche and played it on the piano. Published in a book. Decided to make it a thesis. Couldn’t do it as a PhD. Did it as a DLitt.
05:06 Major study was the piano. He also learned the Timpani (kettledrum). Taught by timpanist of Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Also learned to play the double bass. Learned the clarinet at the Conservatorium. Exposure to the viola. Good practice for composing which was a key part of his role at UWA.
07:56 Impressions of Perth and UWA. Impressed By beauty of the campus. Boarded in St George’s College for 2 weeks.
08:34 Began to learn how to go about being a university lecturer. The course was more of a music appreciation course and built up from a one year to a three year course as a BEd with a major in music. Their rooms were in the tower at Winthrop Hall.
10:04 When Frank Callaway arrived in the mid 50s the library was in the piano school. When David arrived, the library now took up two glass cabinets. Now the library in the best and the biggest in Australia. From little acorns, big oak trees grow.
11:09 Students had already done music but no practical music offered. Before Murray Commission. Learnt practical music by singing in choral society. David founded a Chamber Choir. There became a demand for a stronger music degree and music would expand into the Faculty of Arts under Frank Callaway as its first Chair. This was advertised internationally. This now became an honours degree for those who were good enough. Some practical music was now introduced. The students were sent to suburban teachers until full time teachers were appointed. Michael Brimer and Graham Wood taught piano.
14:30 Contrast with music taught in universities at Adelaide and Melbourne from 19th century. Melbourne had a conservatorium with a large staff. Adelaide got one later. Sydney only had a music department in the late 50s.
16:38 Students would go to Melbourne or Adelaide rather than remain in Perth as it was more prestigious.
17:19 10 years after Frank arrived, the department was up and running. Research, composition, education. It was a conservatorium in all but name. The Murray Report ruled out getting diplomas which was the mainstay of the Conservatorium.
19:00 The community pressed the State Government for a conservatorium in the late 1980s. This became part of Edith Cowan University and became a rival to UWA rather than being able to work together.

Track 4
00:00 Loved the university life at UWA. Contact with other departments. Gave lectures to language department and history and vice versa.
00:54 In 1959, David returned to Sydney and met up with Paula Laurantus again and they decided to get married. Paula also got involved with university life. A cultural hub.
02:26 The Tuart Club comprised the wives of academics who helped people settle in. Met newcomers and had a flat that they could meet. Particularly good for overseas staff coming to UWA.
03:57 Social outings organised. Established university club called University House near the present Music Department. Very welcoming. A social hub. The university was very small. Many buildings such as the Octagon Theatre and the Reid Library were not yet built.
05:23 University House was visited at lunchtime or you get a drink after work but could not get meals. It soon became too small and a little tatty.

Track 5
00:00 Conclusion

Interview 2: 7 November 2012

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 UWA and the Perth community.
01:17 Community university. Similar to universities in US.
02:02 Festival of Perth (1953). Fred Alexander. Frank Callaway’s influence on the festival. Somerville Auditorium. James Penberthy opera Dalgerie based on the love story from the novel 'Keep him my country' by Mary Durack.
03:20 Concerts – such as singing. Films came later.
04:23 Musician in residence began in 1973. Alfredo Campoli violinist. Sponsorship by Tom Wardle (“Tom the Cheap”). Came in 2nd term. Alberni String Quartet came in first term.
08:10 One of the wettest winters when Alfredo Campoli visited. David and Paula found accommodation for them in Kings Park Road and looked after them. Violin recital arranged. David Bollard accompanied on piano and later Stephen Dornan.
10:42 The Tunleys visited the Campolis in the UK on David’s study leave. A year after his death, Alfredo’s widow Joy asked David what to do with his programmes. David then realised he should write the Biography and did so. Joy Campoli was a great help with this. David learned a great deal about English music in the 20th century.
12:21 Musician in residence – golden years of UWA. Scheme ran from 1973 to 1998. Lots of international performers came over the years. Some were in residence at the same time as the Festival of Perth. The School of Music was like a “foyer of international musicians”. Generally people came for 6 or 7 weeks rather than a full term. André Tchaikowsky (1974, 1975 & 1976) performed the complete concertos of Mozart conducted by John Exton.
14:58 One the scheme had started people approached UWA. The University’s mathematics department and the English department also had visiting experts. A significant development in the department’s history.
16:43 The visiting musicians also taught individual students and/or held master classes.
17:35 The Octagon Theatre (1969) was designed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie. It doubled as a lecture and drama theatre. The UWA Music Department used it more than any other department. They held weekly lunch time concerts and put on operas and major musical events (other than those held at Winthrop Hall). The acoustics were designed for the spoken word rather than music or singing.
20:28 The scene of an opera put on in 1987 by David Tunley called Armide. This was the last and greatest opera of Lully, creator of French opera in the 17th century. Visiting musician Ivor Keys from Birmingham University had put on the first modern performance of Armide. UWA put on the second modern adaptation in the world of Lully’s Armide. Ran for 2 nights at the Octagon Theatre. Jane Manning, a British soprano played the lead role. She was a true professional. Philippa O’Brien designed the scenery and Colin O’Brien directed. David Tunley prepared the choir beforehand. Ivor Keys conducted. Margaret Seares and David Tunley worked the sub titles as it was performed in French.
23:56 The old Dolphin Theatre was a workshop theatre in an old cottage near the science departments. The New Dolphin was built in 1976 and was for student productions.
25:40 New Fortune Theatre used for operas and dramatic works.

Track 3
00:00 Moving from venues to performers. Frank Callaway kept the University Choral Society going when he arrived. He was able to use the services of the WA Symphony Orchestra as he was a qualified conductor.
01:12 David Tunley created a university chamber choir. It was first called the A Capella Choir. This later became the collegium musicum so that the choir could also have musical accompaniment. They performed Stravinsky’s Les Noces, a ballet. Good choral, 4 pianos and a wide range of percussion instruments. Complex rhythms. Conference for music and dance and David talked the WA Ballet company to combine with the UWA collegium musicum.
04:15 Performed in 1979 at the Octagon Theatre. Gym weightlifters press-ganged to move the pianos from the UWA School of Music to the theatre pit.
05:29 A good way for staff and students to do things together. Roger Smalley, Brian Michell and 2 students played the pianos.
06:16 The choristers came mainly from the campus. Some of the soloists were Jeff Weaver, Vivien Hamilton, Performed concert performances of operatic works at Cottesloe Civic Centre. Champagne and chicken supper at interval.
07:55 The Collegium Musicum was taken over by Margaret Pride but it fizzled out when she left.
08:31 The York Winter Music Festival was established in 1982 following study leave in England seeing music performed in historic buildings. It ran every second year for about 10 years. When David had a heart attack in 1986 he could not take an active role anymore and it closed down in about 1990.
11:40 When David retired in 1994 he decided to use the foyers of buildings in St George’s Terrace for music festivals. The Terrace Proms ran for 6 years but the Perth City Council then decided to put their funding elsewhere.
12:58 1979 National Eisteddfod to celebrate Australia’s Bicentenary. This was Frank Callaway’s idea. The adjudicators were opera singer, Joan Hammond and pianist, Eileen Joyce. The university awarded them both honorary doctorates. In return, Eileen Joyce gave a clavichord to the City of Perth and money to build a studio at UWA – The Eileen Joyce Studio. She also gave money for scholarships. On her death, she donated her personal archives to UWA. They are located in the Callaway Centre, Crawley Avenue. An invaluable resource for Richard Davis when he wrote his biography of her.
17:35 In 1984 the Indian Ocean Arts Festival was held at UWA. The gamelan orchestra from Java used to visit every year. This has wider significance in view of the recently published government White Paper. Frank Callaway and Peggy Holroyd were very involved with this.

Interview 3: 13 November 2012

Track 1
00:00 Introduction by Julia Wallis

Track 2
00:00 Graduates and staff.
00:29 Trevor Jones, Senior Lecturer. Graduate from University of Sydney. Bassoon. Recorder. Composer. Didgeridoo study. Western music. Studied music of renaissance and baroque at Harvard and at Cambridge. Left UWA after 5 or 6 years to become Foundation Professor of music at Monash University, Melbourne.
03:10 Michael Brimer later became Professor of Music at Melbourne University.
03:33 Roger Smalley. Electronic music and Avant-garde music. Came from UK. Brilliant pianist.

Track 3
00:00 Roger Smalley was a visitor and stayed. Revolutionised the composition area. Internationally recognised. A coup for UWA. Wrote an opera about an early Australian explorer which he considered a huge influence on him as he had to make his music more accessible.
02:04 David Symons was another graduate from Sydney University. Musicologist of German and later Australian music.
02:35 Nicholas Bannan, Cambridge graduate with encyclopaedic knowledge of music. Choral conductor.
02:58 Suzy (Suzanne) Wijsmann - scholar and cellist. Paul Wright – baroque music.
03:35 Students. Two gifted students in 1958 were Jennifer Fowler and Sally Trethowan. Jennifer Fowler now lives in London and is an internationally renowned composer and started the trend. Others include Iain Grandage, James Ledger and Christopher Tonkin (now on staff).
05:03 Performers include – guitarist Craig Ogden who teaches at Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, UK.
05:41 Well-known singers include graduates Sara Macliver and Taryn Fiebig.
06:24 String players have been influenced by the teaching of Paul Wright. Sean Lee violinist.
07:16 Scholars – Philip Bracanin, first PhD in music in Australia inspired by staff member, Dr John Exton.
08:25 Margaret Seares has returned to her love – musicology. Subscription concerts in London in early 18th century.
09:15 Ben Hetherington – music and eng lit. Won one of the first Hackett Scholarships and is now studying at Cambridge.
09:54 Andrew Cichy did a degree in Commerce before music and is now studying at Oxford. Has won a scholarship and is doing a DPhil in 16th century sacred music.
11:38 Criteria that allows students to study music at UWA. Depends on whether you are doing performance, music education, research. Many of the performers are Asian students. Singers don’t develop until they are older.
13:23 Soprano Lisa Harper-Brown is a graduate. Showed potential even at 17. Now lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand.
14:09 Students auditioned to find out what their skills are. It is expensive as performance teaching is one to one.
15:12 Some come to do music education and go on to teach.
16:06 Research requires a maturity that a 17 or 18 year old does not yet possess. This is post graduate study.
17:15 Problems of having a conservatorium in Perth where people think UWA does not have a good enough performance teaching.
18:02 It is unusual for performers to change direction. Some performers turn more to musicology or music education. Some become composers.
19:13 The first year is very broad. The background of the students depends very much on where they were educated. Like other faculties, there is a drop out percentage. Some do music as part of an arts degree.

Track 4
00:00 The building of the present Music School was a fillip to the department. They were first located in the tower at Winthrop Hall and then in Tuart House. Acoustically it was substandard. A committee visited and agreed that funds should be set aside for a purpose built music building. . [Stop Recording due to painter on the roof]

Track 5
00:00 Tony Brand was the architect of the new music school building. He took the time to talk to the staff to find out their needs and they were totally happy. It is built for a Mediterranean climate.
01:16 It was built so that spaces separated the rooms that could be filled in later.
01:38 Supporters in the community gave money to develop a room and then it was named after the donor. Teaching studios were on the ground floor, then studies and practice rooms on the top floor. The Eileen Joyce studio was attached to it.
02:30 The Wigmore Music library was put up separately. Mrs Ivy Hay offered Frank Callaway the money to fund a basic library. Designed by Tony Brand and very well equipped. A focal point of the department. Most of the books are kept in the Reid Library.
05:18 The Wigmore was built shortly after the department opened in about 1976. At Tuart House the double garage was extended to become the music library. There was also a lecture room built behind the garage.
06:55 The purpose built building enabled some specialised teaching. There was an electronic music studio that looked over the Callaway Music Auditorium. These walls can be changed from wood to sound absorbing material. [Phone rings]
08:18 The studio can be used for composing or recording. Seating was eventually a push button device that allows them to be folded away when they are not needed.
09:28 The Octagon now became less well used. Lunch time concerts are now held in the Callaway Auditorium.
10:11 The space before the music department was built was gardens and trees next to the tennis court. David Tunley organised the staff/student tennis competitions. A development may take over the tennis courts.
11:48 The Callaway Resource Centre was in the piano studio but was then moved to a building in Crawley Avenue. The storage needed to for modern conditions. The CRC houses the Burgess Collection, the Eileen Joyce Collection and the John Blacking Collection.
14:52 It is no longer manned as there is not enough money to employ anyone to open it to the public.
15:38 The Annual Callaway Lecture is also funded by philanthropists. [Stop Recording due to noise from gardener with blower or whipper snipper]

Track 6
00:00 This year the lecturer was given by an early music exponent who was in Perth conducting the WASO. He spoke about early music recording.
01:27 For public lectures, it is hard to get the balance right so that it is not too specialised or too general. While there is still money for it, it will keep going. There is also money to publish the lectures which encourages some people to give them.
02:17 Another outreach is the Australian Music Examination Board (AMEB). Before that, music examinations were conducted by people travelling from colleges in the UK. Later, institutions in Melbourne and Adelaide took responsibility for it. In about 1920, UWA took part. Most staff members have done music examining in the country or studios in Perth.
04:08 Most of the good students are Asian. They work very hard.
04:47 The AMEB exams provide theory, harmony and notional exams as well as performance. The School of Music used to ask what standard students had reached in the AMEB exams. The AMEB has led to many more universities taking on music. David Tunley was Chairman of the National AMEB. Put UWA in touch with the range of teaching activities across Australia.
06:55 The UWA music staff set the exams and did the examining at UWA. Visiting professors were encouraged to exam the final year students (particularly those doing Honours).
07:37 UWA music staff always had great integrity and wouldn’t pass anybody who didn’t deserve it.

Track 7
00:00 During the 1970s there was a rise in musical scholarship (musicology). Musicology started in Germany and had to be rigorous and documented.
01:50 Frank Callaway and David Tunley decided to start a journal of musicology in Australia and launched Studies in Music. It stopped in 1992. A lot of work in finding article and editing. It became one of the leading journals in the world.
03:43 Andrew McCredie in Adelaide was the first musicologist in Australia and began his own journal, Miscellanea Musicologica. Contributors from all over the world to both journals.
04:28 Musicology in the 1970s seemed to have a great future. There are slim employment prospects in Australia for musicologist. Performance takes centre stage at universities in Australia as employment prospects are better.
06:28 Music education was also thought to be the discipline of the future but this depends on whether schools are interested in employing music teachers. It has been found to enhance the brain so it is gaining popularity in schools.
07:19 Performance and research are complimentary. Studying at university does not make you a book worm. The best result for musical education is everything coming together.
08:09 The School of Music has a great future. Now regulations demand that students do a unit outside their faculty. Perhaps medical students might swell the numbers. Music gives you an interest for life and is valuable and enjoyable.

Track 8
00:00 Conclusion by Julia Wallis



Tunley, David, “David Tunley interview, 31 October 2012, 7 November 2012 and 13 November 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024, https://oralhistories.arts.uwa.edu.au/items/show/36.